Although Shakespeare's plays were
performed at other venues during the
playwright's career, the Globe Theatre in
the Southwark district of London was the
venue at which the Bard's best known
stage works (including his four great
tragedies) were first produced.
The Globe was built during Shakespeare's
early period in 1599 by one of his long-
standing associates, Cuthbert Burbage, the
brother of the most famous Shakespearean
actor of the Elizabethan Age, Richard
The Chamberlain's Company, who built the
Globe, formed in 1594. At the time, it was one
of only two licensed acting companies in
Among the eight actors in the group were
Shakespeare and Richard Burbage. Of the
eight, only six donated the funds used to build
The Chamberlain's Company later changed its name
to the King's Company when James took over the
The Globe was the most important structure to
Shakespeare's drama because most of his plays were
written to be performed on the stage of the Globe.
Romeo and Juliet was not one of them.
The Globe was obviously round in shape,
containing 20 sides and three stories.
Because the theater had no electricity, all
performances were during the day to allow
the sun to light the open air theater.
The flag on the top of the theater was raised on
performance days, and the color of the flag was
Red = history
White = Comedy
Black = Tragedy
The Globe enclosed an open courtyard,
which theater-goers called “The Pit.”
The patrons who sat here were fittingly
called “The Groundlings.”
More expensive seats, covered with a
thatched roof, were called The Galleries.
The action took place on the main stage, which
contained a trap door used for ghosts, demons,
or even a grave in the famous scene from
The back of the stage was called the inner
stage, used mostly for indoor scenes. There was
an “inner below” and an “inner above.”
In Shakespeare’s times no women were
allowed to act, which is probably why
there are more men’s parts than women’s
in his plays.
The productions did not have scenery and
had very few props.
2. The Heavens
3. Tiring House
4. Upper Stage
6. Main Stage
7. Inner Stage
8. Open Yard
9. Support Pillars
10. Trap Door
12. Brick Foundation
Tragically, the original Globe burned
down in 1613 due to a cannon shot used
as a prop during a performance of Henry
It was soon rebuilt, though, and remained
open on its original foundations until the
Puritans closed it in 1642 and the Globe
II was torn down two years later to make
room for housing.
An Early 17th Century drawing of the Globe in
the time of Shakespeare
The foundation remained buried until the mid-
In 1949, an American actor named Sam
Wanamaker realized the Globe no longer
existed. He made it his life’s work to bring the
Globe back to life.